Two weeks ago I spoke to a group of women about my career as a writer. In general I answered their questions about both my books and the industry itself. One woman seated near me asked most of the “How do you…?” questions, and at the end of the meeting, she confessed that she’s been writing for years and has five completed stories that she’s never sent out. Never.
I asked her why she’d never submitted anything, and she told me she didn’t feel any were “Ready” to submit. She didn’t know anyone to ask to “edit” her work.
I’ve never read any of this woman’s work. I don’t even know her, other than having seen her at a few meetings. I told her when she had something she felt was ready to send me the first 50 pages and I’d look at them for her. I gave her my business card with my email address and phone number, and we left it at that.
Will she send me 50 pages?
I don’t know. My guess is she won’t. Although I don’t know her age, I’m pretty sure she’s in her seventies. If she’s been writing as long as she indicated and has five mss completed (around 300 pages each, she said) and hasn’t taken the next step (found someone to look at the work and edit it), I don’t think she’ll do it now.
People often say, “I have this story I want to write” or “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” Many people actually sit down and start to write the story, but never finish. And then there are those who write a story (fictional or non-fiction), perhaps even share it with friends and/or family members, but never take the next step. They never submit the ms to someone who will give it a critical review. They’re afraid, and their fears are many.
Some fear their writing (grammar, spelling, idea) isn’t good enough. They’re afraid it will be like when they were in school and their papers came back all marked up with red ink. Some fear their writing has exposed emotions they don’t want exposed. The subject is personal, so any criticism of the work will be taken personally. For some the story is like their child. It may have flaws, but it’s their creation and they don’t want it changed in any way.
Over the years I’ve taught many writing classes. I’ve read work that’s eloquent, imaginative, funny, provocative, and absolutely beautiful, but years later, when I meet up with some of these former students, I discover they never finished what they were working on or never submitted anything. With some life simply got in the way, but with most, I think it was that fear of taking the next step. That possibility of being rejected.
With today’s ease of self-publishing, I’m sure some of those writers will get their work out. And if they’re brave enough and wise enough to hire a good editor, we the reading public will have a chance to see stories that years before would have sat in desk drawers. But there will still be a lot of good writers and good stories that will never be published in any form because it takes a lotta nerve to put your stories out for others to read and possibly criticize.